Apr 032012


April 3, 2012   Julia L. Exline   Non-Classical Concerts, Reviews No comments

Under the patronage of the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria, Ambassador Theater presents Hopa Tropa Kukerica!, an authentic celebration of Bulgarian culture! Lilia Slavova wrote and  directedhis whirlwind of song, dance, puppetry, and traditional masquerade. Hopa Tropa Kukerica!, was choreographed by Ivan Dimitrov. The second part – called Na Megdana - was directed and choreographed by Desi Jordanoff. The choreography for the entire production was full of joy, high energy, and pride. Featured talents included folk music group Orfeia, women’s vocal ensemble Svitanya, Bulgarian dance ensemble Zharava, and St. Kliment Okhridski Bulgarian School.

Hopa Tropa Kukerica! Photo courtesy of Ambassador Theater. 

Set Designer Antonio Petrov framed a golden curtain with black ones, and strewed the stage with Bulgarian artifacts, such as animal skins, antlers, woven rugs and thick furs, and stick bundles. This creates a village-like atmosphere on which the large cast can sing and dance. The music, arranged by Petko Kolev, remained upbeat for the majority of the production. What really grabbed your attention, however, were the outfits. The women of Orfeia wore elaborate headdresses and glittery gold dresses, their feet peeping out from under the patterned fringe. The dancers were adorned with flowy white blouses that were paired with red-patterned skirts and vests, and there was not a single woman in sight that does not have a large blossom tucked behind her sleek braids.

The production began with a frightened young girl (Mimi, played by a sparkling Gwendolyn Torrence) shrieking about the Kukerica. Her family (Daniel Rovin as Georgij, Konstantin Hadjipanzov as Grandpa Petar, Amie Cazel as Biliana, and Daria Kondova as Baba Mara) decided to distract her by using plain objects (such as rags and gourds) to create puppets. These puppets, designed by Julia Tasheva, were incredibly creative. They made animals such as rabbits and turkeys from household objects, and then finally formed a man from mostly cloth, who then invited a young audience member onstage and presented him with a Bulgarian rose. The actors worked together, practically intertwined, to make these puppets move realistically, and the effect was very interesting and entertaining. Soon, music began and dancers emerged from the audience and danced around the room, with fun choreography by Ivan Dimitrov. It was quite a spectacle, as they joined hands and circled around each other in varying patterns, some beating on drums and chanting. Looking down at the colorful dancers moving together, it was similar to looking into a kaleidoscope. The gold jewelry clinked to the beat as they danced, adding their own unique chime to the music.

After the puppetry, music, and dancing, audience members were welcomed onstage to join the dance, while others walked down the hall to sample traditional Bulgarian food. Workshops with the actors and dancers were also held later in the day for people who wished to attend.

While the entertainment was great, I do wish that the audience behaved more gracefully. Flashes from cameras were constant, and from every direction, which proved to be a great distraction, and a safety risk for the actors and dancers.

The entertainment was well-executed. It was quite a display of talent!

Apr 022012

Ambassador Theater celebrates spring with Bulgarian festival on Sunday


The slump is over for DC area theatregoeers. After more than a week without any openings, audiences have five new openings to consider this weekend, SWAN day on Saturday,and, on Sunday, a most unusual performance by Bulgarian performers, produced by the Ambassador Theater.

Svitanya, one of three ensembles performing on Sunday

Described as “a whirling masquerade of puppetry, folk objects, song, dance, and food to bring out the fun loving fool in all of us!” Hopa Tropa: Kukerica! will be given two performances at the George Washington Masonic Memorial Theatre in Alexandria, VA, starting at 11:30am.

“The theatre is beautiful, and the view from the Masonic grounds is breathtaking,” Hanna Bondarewska told us, as she described Ambassador’s largest production, by far, to date. More than 50 artists will perform under Lilia Slavova’s original improvisational concept, featuring Bulgarian ensembles Orfeia, Svitanya, and Zharava, music by Petko Kolev, choreography by Ivan Dimitrov, set design by Antonio Petrov and puppets by master puppeteer Julia Tasheva. Tickets, ranging from $10 to $25 can be purchased on line at the Box Office, or day of performance, at the theatre.